The Vulnerability Hangover (why embracing this type of hangover can be a game changer)

Embracing vulnerability isn’t always easy or comfortable, but it can be a transformative experience, allowing you to form deeper connections, foster personal growth, and build resilience. Check out my latest article on this topic – and please weigh in with your thoughts here; looking forward to any feedback or insights.

I understand what you are saying in the article. A lot of good advice.

However, I want to consider an alternative to the word, ‘vulnerability’.

The Oxford English dictionary definition of vulnerable is…

Able to be easily physically or mentally hurt, influence, or attacked.

Which means that vulnerability is having the capacity to be easily harmed.

I don’t think that people necessarily realize that this is the actual definition because they use it colloquially to mean that you remove your barriers and open up yourself to new ideas, perceptions, possibilities.

But if you take the definition as given, I think it sets the wrong sentiment.

I’m more of a fan of ‘humility’. The definition of which is…

The quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance; quality of not thinking you are better than others.

I like going back to the definitions and, sometimes, etymologies of words because they can be helpful in revealing true meanings. Substituting ‘humility’ for ‘vulnerability’ in your list of benefits brings out a slightly different emphasis.

Emphasizing vulnerability means that we must allow for a breakdown or destruction of our defenses and pierce the heart of our identity or ‘self’. Hopefully, we can recover from this insult or injury by putting things back together in such a way as to be an improved version of ourselves.

Emphasizing humility allows us to keep ourselves intact but to challenge our preconceived notions. Hopefully, we learn an important lesson by holding up a mirror to our self-identity and pondering how the reflection is at odds with reality.

Exchanging these two words may sound a bit persnickety on the surface of it but I do believe there is a substantive difference. I didn’t used to think that boundaries were as important as I do now. If our boundaries are too porous, we can easily lose ourselves and our integrity. I believe that when we learn from a position of vulnerability we are more likely to adopt a false narrative to make things better without really understanding what happened; swapping one mask for another. If we learn from humility, we course correct without smashing the compass.

I was at an event recently where everyone in the room - strangers to one another - were encouraged to make themselves vulnerable and reveal something personal. This struck me as manipulative. The purpose was to accelerate trust and bond-building. But I think the idea is unwelcome. Smacks of trauma-bonding. Or, as a college essayist said in a Ted talk I saw recently, a form of ‘trauma porn’ in which people are encouraged to break down barriers by sharing their most uncomfortable stories of triumph over adversity.

My preferred way to bond is to give people a thorny problem to solve while encouraging them to find common ground despite their disagreement.You get to know a lot more about each other without having to disclose something that can be debasing. If the participants politely respect each other’s differences but have a substantive discussion, it can sometimes truly change hearts and minds. Or, at the very least, it teaches us to be humble :wink: